Parliament completed the committee of the house stage of the voluntary student membership bill last night. No amendments to the bill were adopted. The voluntary student membership bill will now have its brief third and final reading at the next Member’s day, which is likely to be 28 September. The new law, when passed, would then take effect in January next year.
In the lead up to the third reading the New Zealand Union of Students Associations (NZUSA) asked for politicians to introduce a compromise proposal that it had developed.
NZUSA’s proposal was that students automatically become members of their students’ association when they enrol at a tertiary institution but that they could opt-out of their association at any time and for any (or no) reason. If students opted out within the first four weeks of term, they would receive a full refund of any association fees. Institutions rather than the students’ associations would administer and promote membership processes. Associations would improve their governance and operations through a Code of Practice for democracy and accountability. The proposed law would come into effect in 2013, ensuring enough time for the sector to make adjustments.
“This practical proposal would do what ACT claim they are trying to achieve with their current Member’s Bill,” said NZUSA co-president Max Hardy. “Students will see this proposal as a fair and sensible alternative, the proposal has widespread support from students’ associations, and echoes suggestions made by submitters during the Select Committee process.”
However, NZUSA’s proposal was rejected.
TEU has opposed the voluntary student membership legislation arguing that it will undermine quality learning and put increased pressure on staff if important student services are either no longer offered or funded instead by cuts to other areas of an institution’s budget.